Archive for January, 2011

January 31, 2011

Record breaking transfer deadline day closes, as Carroll, Torres, Suarez and Luiz all move

Fernando Torres after scoring goal against Vål...

Image via Wikipedia

There was no sign of austerity on transfer deadline day , as Premier League Clubs spent a record £214 million on new signings. The bulk of this was made up by four major deals involving Chelsea and Liverpool. The blues splashed out £21 million on David Luiz, and £50 million on Fernando Torres. The bulk of the Torres fee received by Liverpool went on buying Newcastle’s Andy Carroll, who’s £35 million price tag broke the British transfer record. Oh yeah, Liverpool also signed  World Cup wonder Luiz Suarez for £22 million from Atletico Madrid.

Chelsea vs Liverpool on Sunday will be rather tasty then, although Caroll will not be fit for at least a month, which makes his already excessive price tag seem more ridiculous. Torres has been out of form too, but obviously Chelsea think they can get the best from him once again. Clearly Roman Abramovich has decided to back under pressure Ancelotti, allowing him to also bring in highly rated Brazilian defender David Luiz from Benfica. Luiz is only 23, and can play across the back four. The signings could really reignite Chelsea’s bid to retain the Premier League title they won last year, although it is seems that these are signings that Abramovich has funded are once again try and win the Champions League.

While the hype will obviously be about Torres and Carroll, VN reckons Suarez is the real man to watch. Fulham also have pulled of a top signing,  bagging the services of Eidur Gudjonson until the end of the season. Gudjohnson is a proven goalscorer, strong, and experienced. His contribution helped Tottenham qualify for the Champions League last year (remember that vital goal at Stoke,) and means that Fulham are certainly safe for another year, and could even challenge for the top half of the table.

Not all the deals happened though. Charles N’Zogbia will still be a Wigan player, after the club rejected bids of £10 million and £12 million from his former side Newcastle. Harry Redknapp put in his now mandatory last minute bid, this time for Blackpool’s Charlie Adam, but the Seasiders keep their man, as time ran out on the deal. Spurs also had bids turned down for Diego Forlan, Sergio Aguerro and, erm, Phil Neville, and must be disappointed with their months (lack of) work. North London neighbours Arsenal still havn’t sorted their goalkeeper problem, and there were no big new names coming in to Old Trafford either.

This time last year, the relatively poultry sum of £29 million had been spent, but four major deals blew that sum out of the water today. Clearly Chelsea and Liverpool’s owners have decided to back their managers long-term, and try and reinvigorate their seasons short-term with some big money signings. If Liverpool sneak into the Europa League, or even the Champions League, thanks to their new fire power, and Chelsea win the title or the Champions League, the money men will consider it worth every penny.

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January 31, 2011

End in sight for AV Bill in the House of Lords

It seems that after two weeks debate, the saga of the Parliamentary Voting System and Constituencies Bill is finally going to end, with it passing the committee stage of the Lords. The BBC’s Michael Crick just tweeted: “Lord Strathclyde announces Lords committee on AV bill will finish Wednesday. Follows deal with crossbenchers.”

Lord Strathclyde, who is the Leader of the Conservatives (and therefore the Government,) in the House of Lords, gave a statement to the House in which he announced that the Government had offered a “package of concessions” to peers blocking the Bill. The Bill has to be passed by the middle of February in order for the AV Referendum to take place as proposed on May 5th. Knowing that a Government guillotine could be enforced, it looks like opposition peers have extracted as much from the situation as possible, after facing increasing dissent from non-aligned cross bench colleagues.

Frankly this has been an embarrassment not only to the Labour party peers filibustering, but the entire House of Lords. The image of unelected Parliamentarians, camping out in the Lords or asleep on the red benches in an attempt block legislation to make votes equal, proves once and for all why there is a need for greater political reform. While there are still other stages of debate to endure, at last this farcical situation seems to be coming to an end.

January 31, 2011

Another reason why politics is getting posher

In recent days there has been much talk of Andrew Neil’s interesting ‘Posh and Posher: Why Public School Boys Run Britain’ documentary for the BBC. Neil’s main point seemed to be that the removal of the meritocratic Grammer school system has prevented intelligent working class/lower middle class people competing with those who received a public or private school education. There is then a fast stream for those more privileged individuals from public school, to PPE at Oxford, to being a researcher, a SpAd, and eventually an MP or even a minister. The numbers make this a hard thesis to dispute, however, VN thinks Neil only scratched the surface of the issue.

 

It is generally agreed that beyond a having a certain level of articulacy and intelligence, the best way to give a political career momentum is getting into the Westminster Village and  networking. This is normally done initially as an intern. Unpaid. For months at a time. Clearly only people based in London and/or with parents able to support them financially will be able to get directly involved in the heart of our political system.

 

Furthermore, people expect almost everything in politics to be done for free, and not just leaflet delivery, but tasks that actually involve a high level of skill and responsibility. This includes the running of youth parties, acting as local press officers, online campaigning, the running of local parties, and more interns in local parties too. Not only does this reduce the calibre of people involved in politics, as  talented people don’t need to be taken advantage of for free when they could be in the private sector, but it clearly reduces the type of people that can give up significant periods of time to be actively involved in politics.

 

It won’t be a popular sentiment, but the only way to stop politics getting posher and more elitist is to put more money into it. Put an end to unpaid internships, and stop demanding huge amounts of responsibility and time from volunteers. Politics is not a charity, and while people will always volunteer for a cause they believe in, political parities and campaigning organisations should not be built on a model of free labour. If we change this, it will mean that people who are talented and dedicated can enter into the political world, whatever socio-economic background they are from, and our politics might just stop getting posher.

 

 

January 29, 2011

Hard left chase NUS President Aaron Porter from fees protest

NUS President Aaron Poter has been hounded out of his own protest in Manchester after being threatened by hard left activists. The temper-tantruming Trots criticise Porter for his policy of engaging with MPs and ministers, and for his only cautious support for more radical student action like occupations. It is even be reported, by a photographer being quoted in the Daily Mail, that some shouted ‘Tory Jew scum’ at the NUS President before he was led to safety by the police.
VN doesn’t have much love for the NUS, and has criticised some of Porter’s approach to campaigning against a rise in fees, however this bullying behaviour from hard left elements within the youth and student movement simply discredits the movement as a whole. Bullying is not free speech, it is instead an attempt to shout the loudest in order to drown out other opinions, and an abuse of democracy.
Thus far, Aaron Porter is still running for a second term, despite increasing calls for him to stand down.
January 29, 2011

Review – “Stand Still” by Emma’s Imagination

Emma’s Imagination, known to her mum as Emma Gillespie, was the winner of Sky One’s Must Be The Music, a much better version of X-Factor. Prior to releasing an album on a major label, she was a busker on the streets of her hometown of Glasgow.

‘Stand Still’ starts with the song that won Emma the competition, “This Day is Mine”. The album version has  been beefed up and over produced, watering down the laid-back optimism of the original girl-and-a-guitar version, a real shame. The rest of the songs though actually benefit from a slightly bigger sound the studio has allowed. Emma’s voice is strong and engaging, and the songs are well structured enough, to hold the  listeners attention. The album does have the sense of complete collection of songs, which is impressive from a debut, but there a no stand out tracks to take it to the next level.

Emma Gillespie is clearly a natural songwriter, with a clear style and sound that she wants to develop. It is clearly her album. This focus means that the album does at points sound a bit samey, although the songs are mostly good enough to overcome this. It is worth pointing out that eight of the ten tracks were written by her, which shouldn’t be worthy of comment but, in this time of professional karaoke singers, is. It is this songwriting ability that will mean that far from standing still, this debut album should be the start of a long career off the streets and in the studio for Emma’s Imagination.

January 28, 2011

Stripping the week 24-28 January 2011

>After the chaos of last week, this week has been decidedly dull , unless you’re in North Africa/the Middle East. The world watches and waits to see effects of the protests and people power, first in Tunisia and now Egypt. Over in America, President Obama made his second State of the Union, which has been widely regarded as clear and impressive move to the centre.

Back here though it was all about the economy, stupid. It was announced that the UK economy had shrunk by 0.5% in the last quarter of 2010. A significant reason for the bad figures was the bad weather at the end of the year, which limited financial activity. However, even with this taken into account, the economy was flatlining. Chancellor George Osborne vowed not to be ‘blown of course,’ but there are nerves in the coalition, who need the economy to strengthen to justify the cuts. Ed Balls tried to, uhum, cash in on the figures, but his performance was less than impressive. March’s budget is going to be very interesting indeed.

The biggest storm of the week though was not political. Tapes and video emerged of Sky Sports pundits Andy Gray and Richard Keys making sexist remarks, initially about Assistant Referee Sian Massey. Gray was sacked, Keys resigned. It took a few days, but this must be the right decision. They had behaved in an unacceptable, discriminatory way. Although the comments were made off-air, they were still made in the place of work. Furthermore, they expanded their incorrect criticism of Massey’s decision into a tirade against women in football in general, and once this was exposed they couldn’t stay. VN can’t help thinking that somebody wanted them out though…

Even after Andy Coulson’s departure last week it seems the phone hacking story has still got legs, perhaps even more so now. The Met have reopened their investigation, begging the question what on Earth where they doing in the first place?

The Carling Cup semi-finals were completed this week, and Arsenal will take on Birmingham City in the final next month. Andy Murray will be competing in a final too, having made it through to the end of the Australian Open. He beat David Ferrer 4-6 7-6 6-1 7-6, and will be up against Novak Djokovic on Sunday. Liverpool have signed Uruguay World Cup star Luis Suarez for £23 million, but Chelsea have put in a bid for Fernando Torres, with the transfer window closing on Monday.

Hero of the week: President Obama for the path of progress he laid out in his State of the Union
Villain of the week: Ed Balls for the unashamed glee with which he reacted to slow economic figures


Listening to this week: The Boat that Rocked Motion Picture Soundtrack – ’60s joy!
Reading this week: The Girl that Played with Fire by Steig Larsson 
Watching this week: Series 5 of Skins

January 28, 2011

Ian Holloway to offer resignation as Blackpool manager

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BOLTON, UNITED KINGDOM - NOVEMBER 27: Ian Holl...Image by Getty Images via @daylife

Blackpool manager Ian Holloway will offer his resignation as Blackpool manager, it is being reported. He threatened to quit if Blackpool received any punishment for making 10 changes to their team against Aston Villa last November, a game Holloway’s side lost 3-2. Yesterday Blackpool were handed a fine of £25K for the incident. Wolves had been given a similar fine, but suspended, for the same offense.

It seems crazy that the Premier League can decide what a manager’s ‘strongest’ team is, particularly in this age of large squads and multiple competitions. No punishment has ever been given to teams rotating their squad to play lower league teams in the League or FA Cup, and nor should it. This is despite the fact that those actions have devalued those competitions more than a one-off Premier League squad rotation ever could.

Blackpool acting Chief Exec Karl Oyston has pledged to reject the resignation, but this is an unnecessary distraction for a club fighting to retain their place in the Premier League.

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January 28, 2011

What would you do for a million pounds?

YouGov are becoming increasingly notorious for their ridiculous daily polls, but this one is particularly amazing. It asked respondents what they would do for a million pounds, and then split the results up by the party they support:

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Yup…32% of Labour voters would get naked for a national newspaper, and were also the happiest to have sex with someone they find physically repulsive. Lib Dem voters though were the least social, with 22% of them saying they could go a whole year without human contact for the cash!

As the saying goes – lies, damned lies, and statistics…

January 28, 2011

What is 10 O’Clock live?

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Two episodes in, and 10 O’Clock live still doesn’t quite seem to know what it is yet. Is it a comedy programme? Does it offer insightful analysis of the weeks biggest political stories? Does it just fill half an hour for politicos before flipping over to Question Time?

Yesterday Alistair Campbell was the main guest, being interviewed by a clearly nervous David Mitchell. Did we learn a single thing from it? No. The normally brilliantly funny Mitchell wasted 10 minutes asking predictable questions about the Iraq war. Campbell didn’t even break a sweat, Mitchell didn’t crack a joke.The interview summed up the problems with the programme. Whilst trying to be both insightful and funny, the section ended up being neither.

The main reason 10 O’Clock live doesn’t know what it’s meant to be is because it has too many presenters, who’s different backgrounds and styles often mean a clash, not a contrast. Jimmy Carr’s headlines were funny, as was Lauren Laverne’s sexism sketch, but they didn’t fit with a rant from Charlie Brooker, or a knowing opinion from Mitchell. The presenters are the TV satire equivalent of a manufactured pop band, thrown together by backstage producers for marketing expedience.

The programme probably needs time to find it’s feet, and may well develop and improve as the weeks go by. If it does it could certainly prove worthwhile light relief from the BBC’s more hackish political coverage. For the moment though it makes for quite disjointed viewing, and falls a long way short of being the UK’s answer to the Daily Show.
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January 27, 2011

Nick Clegg at the World Economic Forum in Davos

 

Here is a video of Deputy Prime Minister, and Lib Dem Leader, Nick Clegg talking on a panel at the World Economic Forum in Davos. Now there is a sentence no-one expected to write a year ago!
The people videoing it were seem to not be big on editing, but the discussion starts about 9 minutes in:
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